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Donkey Punch (10/10)

by Tony Medley

Run Time 95 Minutes

Not for Children

What happens when seven ordinary young people, inexperienced in the rough and tumble of life, are thrust into an extraordinary situation requiring life-altering decisions to be made in an extremely short period of time? That’s the dilemma faced by the seven young people in this exceptional film.

Three young women, Lisa (Sian Breckin), Tammi (Nichola Burley), and Kim (Jaime Winstone) are on a holiday in Majorca, Spain. They meet four attractive young men, Sean (Robert Boulter), Bluey (Tom Burke), Josh (Julian Morris), and Marcus (Jay Taylor) at a party. Turns out they are the crew of a yacht. As things progress the ladies agree to accompany the men to the yacht for a drink. One thing leads to another and they decide to go for a short cruise. Drugs are passed around and three of the men accompany two of the women to a cabin where they have sex. Suddenly, one of the women dies. This presents them with a dilemma, what to do? The death was anything but accidental.

So there’s the deal. They find themselves like William Golding’s boys in “Lord of the Flies,” cast adrift in their own world, apart from civilization. In fact, in a ship in the middle of the sea, they comprise their own civilization. Worse, they don’t have life experience to fall back upon because they haven’t lived enough of it. Trapped in their naiveté, they must solve their problem before returning to civilization on the shore. Like Golding’s boys, they are pulled apart by the alternative of drifting into savagery to solve their problem. What is wonderful about this film is that a thinking audience is forced to ask itself, “What would I do?”

As they try to deal with the problem, tension mounts and violence rears its ugly head. Acts that none of them would have thought themselves capable of suddenly become possible courses of action.

Written (with David Bloom) and directed by Olly Blackburn, this was shot on a $2 million budget in 24 days. Blackburn shows a deft hand in spinning a spellbinding metaphor for what separates people from civilization and barbarity.

This is such a believable tale told with pace that never lags. The way the young women agree to accompany the men to the ship, the way they all agree to go on a short cruise, and the resulting actions are all told in a way that clearly could happen to just about anybody. How they react to the situation is also eminently believable.

They all start out as pretty frivolous, inexperienced, happy, excited young people. Within a few hours they are faced with their ordeal and as each faces the life-altering decisions they must make, each changes drastically.

This film originally had an NC-17 rating because of graphic, softcore sex, some violence, and drug use. But this is a gut-grabbing, tension-inducing experience that may leave you exhausted as you try to figure out what you would do in their situations, and what they will do.

All the actors give exceptional performances. It’s hard for me to single any out because they are all terrific, but Sian Breckin is awesome as the beautiful blond who is game for anything, and Nichola Burley is captivating as the young lady who is dubious about the whole thing. As for the men, they all present their respective characters in a manner that almost makes you feel like you’re looking at something that is actually happening, so real are their reactions to each situation as it arises.

My only criticism of the film is that the accents and expressions were extremely difficult for me to understand. I asked Breckin about that and she said that they had heard that from other people and opined, jocularly, that maybe they should have used subtitles. I would vote for that idea.

Although I would like longer to prepare this review, I’m writing this immediately after my viewing of the film, which I saw on opening day, because the film, to my knowledge, has just a short one week window to see how it does. So I want to get this review out as soon as possible. It’s playing at the Nuart in West Los Angeles until Thursday, January 29. You won’t see a more brilliantly made, exciting film this year, and there won’t be many that I recommend as highly.

January 23, 2009